Introducing my friends and fellow (or should that be sister?) authors of Honno – The longest-standing independent women’s press in the UK – who will be at the Honno Book Fair on the 7th May 2022 , 10.00am until 4.00pm, at the Queens Hall, Narberth, Pembrokeshire.
If you’re in the area,we’d be thrilled if you popped in to say hello
Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing each author. I’ll also be showcasing Honno.
Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Hilary Shepherd
Hello and welcome, Hilary. Good to see you here today.
It’s good to be with you, Judith
Could you tell us, please, how many books have you written, and which is your favourite?
Five written, three published. My favourite is ‘Albi’.
What inspired the idea for your book?
The book is based on a village in Aragon in Spain where we have a house. Over the last 20 years we’ve been told a lot of stories about the impact of the Civil War on neighbours who have all died now. Our house is full of farm implements that would have been in common use then and the sound landscape has changed little – the streets are too narrow for traffic so human voices dominate. The sheep flocks still graze to the sound of their bells and the shepherds call to them as they always did. The golden orioles still sing. I couldn’t not write about it!
Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why.
Albi himself, a nine-year-old boy who is catapulted into a strange and forbidding world but is still only a child. I think of him whenever I’m in the village and things he got up to and it’s a jolt to remember sometimes that he exists only in my head. And in the heads of my readers.
What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing? Or what was your hardest scene to write, and why?
The ending, because there were so many threads to draw together and I wanted to do justice to my characters and also to history, which doesn’t have resolutions.
What part of the book was the most fun to write?
The pranks Albi gets up to, and the irony of what he sees compared with what he understands.
What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?
Now I’m older, a comfortable chair.
What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
At the moment it’s to keep writing when making physical things seems so much less of a self-indulgence. This is a knock-on of covid though I’m not sure why. At the moment I find myself preferring to make a window than spend time at my desk, which isn’t very conducive to finishing off my next novel.
What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?
Writing that isn’t tied to the earth by too many words in the wrong places.
What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?
Both – they leapfrog each other until it gets difficult to remember which was the trigger, though I’m pretty certain the characters come second but then drive the plot, sometimes surprisingly.
How do you use social media as an author?
I’m afraid I don’t. I used to, but I really didn’t like it.
Why did you Honno as a publisher?
Because they were there, and because Caroline responded so generously to my first submission. Since then I’ve come to appreciate the community that Honno is and the chance to be aware of others’ progress through the otherwise deeply solitary experience of being published.
I live on a hillside in the middle of Wales where I have spent most of my adult life farming and woodworking, and also writing. My first novel was set in the Sudan where I lived for two years, the second in Ghana, and the third in Spain. Writing about other places is a wonderful way to spend time in them when life keeps you somewhere else.